Quantcast

Demolition of Chelsea buildings from 1840s has preservationists up in arms

Andrew Berman of Village Preservation speaks at a rally in front of 44-54 Ninth Ave. where demolition is underway on the 1840s buildings on Oct. 28.
Photo by Mark Hallum

“It stinks,” if you ask Andrew Berman, Executive Director of Village Preservation.

What he was referring to are a set of well-known buildings at the corner of Ninth Avenue and 14th Street that date to the 1840s and are protected as historic sites, but that is not stopping city agencies from green-lighting their demolition.

The circumstances that the structures at 44-54 Ninth Ave., be deemed unsafe by both the city Department of Buildings and the Landmarks Preservation Commission in the midst of a plan to redevelop the corner by Tavros Capital, is simply too convenient, according to Berman at a rally Thursday morning.

“The city relies on the assumption that we’re all pretty dumb. They will say, well, here’s some pictures of some cracked bricks in the building. That means these buildings are too fragile, and too endangered to remain up and they have to be demolished right now. Many of us have worked with a historic building or two. And we’ve seen conditions like this. It is not uncommon in 175 year old buildings,” Berman said.

According to the DOB, a registered design professional documented the street facades detaching from walls, the absence of ties connecting the street facades to the floors, “very erratic and ineffective” brick toothing, cracked floor beams, compromised mortar and many large openings the “demising” walls.

For about 175 years, the buildings at 44-54 Ninth Ave. and 351-55 West 14th St. have stood near the Chelsea Triangle.Photo by Mark Hallum

“The City must act quickly to keep the public safe when emergencies occur. These historic buildings were being restored and renovated when structural engineers discovered and reported dangerous pre-existing conditions. Many of the structural failures, which predated the recent work at the site, were hidden by interior nonstructural walls and surface finishes. DOB engineers confirmed dangerous conditions with a potential collapse imminent and ordered immediate corrective actions to protect the public and workers at the site, including deconstructing the street facades by hand,” the DOB and LPC said in a joint statement. “All future work will require review by LPC, and the building owners have agreed to salvage the bricks from the street facades and reconstruct the historic buildings to the extent possible.”

Those street facades were currently under demolition as of Thursday morning with old time-y lettering beneath the facade indicating that a dentist’s office once existed there many decades ago. The Old Homestead steakhouse still has parts of its signage disappearing beneath scaffolding. Projections of the buildings that will spring in their place have already been posted to the scaffolding and depict brick structures of similar scale to what has stood there for much of the city’s past.

Projections of what 44-54 Ninth Ave. and 351-55 West 14th St. could look like in the coming years.Photo by Mark Hallum

[Tavros] has been and continues to be fully committed to renovate, reconstruct, and restore the façades of the historic buildings as an integral part of our work on this site. We understand that there has been an abundance of concern about how these dangerous conditions came about and why it is necessary to dismantle the façades.” Dov Barnett, a founding partner at Tavros, said. “At this time, the façades have been braced to allow the demolition to proceed safely in accordance with NYC DOB. Given the dangerous state of these façades and clear direct orders from NYC DOB, any suggestion that the required demolition should be halted is both uninformed and irresponsible.”

Tavros Capital also stated that while the building is unsafe, the façades have been “braced to allow the demolition to proceed safely,” regarding calls for the demolition to be halted “both uninformed and irresponsible.”

Joining the din within the Chelsea Triangle was also Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, representatives from the Historic Districts Council and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick.

More from around NYC